Gamestyle Archive intro: Lovin’ this review! Daniel James was our resident Guitar Hero expert. The fad for musical games was his nirvana and we covered the lot. The genre vanished as quickly as it arrived yet the gameplay it offered remains constant.
Format: Playstation 2
Published: August 2007
Acceptable in the eighties
Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s is Harmonix’s last Guitar Hero title before Neversoft take over the reins of development, and they’ve decided to focus on arguably the best decade of music ever. Guitar Hero 1 and 2 have already featured a lot of the more obvious choices from the eighties, including Judas Priest, ZZ Top and Motley Crue, so this has had to dig a little deeper to fill up the thirty-strong tracklist.
Yes, with just thirty songs (no bonus tracks, but some of them are original recordings), this is thinnest Guitar Hero yet. It’s basically an encore edition; the venues and characters are the same, redressed to suit the era, and all the menus and interfaces are identical. It’s lazy, but that’s not why you want Guitar Hero – you want Guitar Hero because of the music, you want more levels. The fact that it comes on a separate disc in its own box is neither here nor there. At least you can be confident that the same refined hammer-on and pull-off system from GH2 is in place, and the game supports wide-screen, progressive scan and lag offset.
The music, frankly, is brilliant. Gamestyle was pessimistic at first, glancing at the track list, but this is the most consistently high standard selection of songs in any Guitar Hero to date. The only issue is the lack of variety, but it’s an eighties themed list, so you should know what to expect. The catchy heavy metal sound of Quiet Riot’s ‘Bang Your Head’ kicks things off, taking a tour through Flock of Seagulls’ ‘I Ran’ and onto White Lion’s ‘Radar Love’ (a particular favourite). Then there are funkier upbeat tunes from The Romantics and comedy from the Vapors’ ‘Turning Japanese’, before heading into heavyville with Maiden’s ‘Wrathchild’, Anthrax’s ‘Caught In A Mosh’ and an excellent closing track which we’ll leave as a surprise (it’s no Freebird, but what is?).
Hair metal, glam rock, it was all about being loud, being bold, but not being show-offs with complicated guitar fretwork. Most of GH80s’ tracks are quite content to follow simple repetitive sequences of notes, certainly favouring power chords, most of the way through, which makes learning the patterns easier. That said, some of these are quite long songs and they can hinge on an annoyingly-placed solo or end flourish, but if you’re playing on an appropriate difficulty for your skill level, you shouldn’t have any problems. Compared to GH2, the hard mode seems easier now and the expert mode a little harder. Three-button chords are more plentiful than ever before and some of the solos are just ridiculous. ‘Star power’ can turn things around, so using it tactically is as important as ever.
But that’s the thing about Guitar Hero, it has an amazing learning curve. Gamestyle’s mangled hands have found new life and are pushing on with harder and faster sequences than ever before. To think that medium mode seemed difficult once upon a time is to realise how far Guitar Hero can take you. It’s not quite the real thing, but sometimes it feels like it, and GH80s can take you there right from the start with its four difficulty levels.Take this into multiplayer mode and you can once again set a difficulty handicap for yourself or the other player. Face-off and Pro Face-off return, as does the inspired co-operative mode whereby you each play a different guitar part and your score is added together. For extra fun, devise a cue for both triggering simultaneous star power. Guitar Hero 80s is a standalone disc, but you’ve probably got a couple of guitars by now, right?
Once again, Guitar Hero makes us appreciate rock music more than ever before. Away from the game, songs can become coloured buttons in our mind and our fingers mimic the movements across the plastic fretboard when we hear a guitar track. Even those songs we might not normally like are raised to a higher status through visual association. When playing, the temptation to pose or strut is too hard to resist, so we just go with the flow. It’s an exhilarating game.30 for 30 tracks is not the best value for money, but can you put a price on this sort of fun? Granted, this is a filler game before the next ‘full’ edition, but in terms of songs, there’s no filler here – not one track is tacked on or unsuitable – that’s not even something GH2 can claim. Neversoft have their work cut out for them.